Monday, November 11, 2013

Facet Joint Injections and Why I Have Neck Problems

So, I've been having issues with my neck and back for a few years now.  Basically, I have arthritis in my neck joints, and muscle and nerve related problems in my neck due to a cervical fusion I had when I was younger.

Why did I have cervical fusion?  Well, when I was first diagnosed with SED at 15, the doctors took x-rays of my entire body and concentrated on my neck and spine since it's common to have spine related problems caused by my disease.  And I was a winner (go me!) with a little bone chip that was floating in my spinal column high up in the C1-C2 area.  Looking back, there were some signs that we should have recognized.  I remember as a child going on bumper cars and getting bumped a certain way and having my entire body go numb.  Not good.  I also did a gymnastics class once and was doing somersaults and had my body go numb there as well.

The doctors told me that I was very lucky (I would say it's a miracle) that I hadn't been paralyzed (they said I would have been paralyzed to the extent that Christopher Reeve was) and sent me home in a cervical collar and I had surgery scheduled for 3 weeks later.  I had a halo put on about a week before my fusion and was in that for over four months.  I missed half of my sophomore year in high school.

Skip to 20 years later and my fusion has “settled” how a new house will settle after a few years.  Mine has settled and gone crooked.  If you know anything about how bones and muscles work together, than you know that your muscles try to protect your bones...and mine were getting very angry with my neck bones being crooked!  I constantly get knots in my neck and suffer from tension headaches.   It had gotten so bad that about 7 years ago I went to a neuro doc to see what was wrong.  It was him that told me that it was very common to see these fusions settle and get crooked, and the best thing for me to do was try to keep the muscles loose.  He recommended physical therapy and acupuncture (it was only years later that I finally started acupuncture).  I went to physical therapy for a few months and was able to get the muscles to a calm enough level and continued on with therapeutic massage after that about every 6 weeks (would have went longer, except that's a total out of pocket cost). 

This kept things at bay until about 2 years ago when my symptoms worsened and I was now also having constant burning down the side of my neck that would radiate to the entire side of my head into my ear and side of my face.  I went to a whole slew of new doctors and was really terrified that they were going to tell me that I needed to have my fusion redone.  Thank God that wasn't the case (seriously--THANK YOU GOD. Thank you, thank you, thank you!).  I was diagnosed with occipital neuralgia and started getting injections into my greater and lesser occipital nerves.  After my ankle surgery 5 months ago, my neck was flaring up again.  The doc who was doing my injections moved away and the new doc who replaced him wanted to try some new things that would hopefully last longer than the occipital injections.  I tried an epidural shot about 3 weeks ago that was supposed to help my neck and my back pain (yeah, I have some back issues too).   Not only did that not help, it was pretty painful for a few days.

And that brings me to today.  I called my doctors office to beg them to see me earlier than the appointment that I had already lined up for the end of November...I didn't want anything to interfere with my ankle surgery coming up.  They said they could see me this afternoon.  Woot!  The procedure I had done is called facet joint injections.  It was a bit painful at times and lasted about 10-15 minutes.  Most of the time the pain was about a 3 out of 10, with the worst of the procedure being about a 6-7.  They said that I should be mostly numb for about 2-3 hours and then I should ice it.  Well, it's been about 1.5 hours and I'm starting to feel sore and I have a very slight eyeball headache.

I was nervous about the procedure, having the epidural shot only weeks before, but I held it together pretty well.  I had a friend drive me (thanks Joan!) and I was glad that she was there in the room with me because after the procedure was over, I felt very anxious and thought I may have a panic attack.  I don't like needles in my neck!!  After a few tears, and a strawberry kiwi juice box (I guess that's what they give their nervous patients), I did my 15 minute wait in the office before I was okay'd to be released into the wild.

Now it's a wait and see if this works.  Fingers crossed...good vibes and prayers welcomed!

Anyone else ever had these procedures done?  Have they worked for you?  If so, how long did you find relief for? 

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